Yesterday I had a conversation with my boss that’s still bothering me. In it, I mentioned that I had some pages I felt very proud of going out in today’s release. My enthusiasm for my pages made me realize I hadn’t connected with other team members about what they were working on for months. As I thought about it more, I realized that with the current work from home situation, I don’t have the everyday encounters that give a sense of what other people on my team are doing when it doesn’t directly impact my work. So I suggested to my boss that we offer an opportunity for our team to showcase projects they’ve worked on recently that they’re particularly proud of, possibly in our standing team meetings.
Well. My boss didn’t only shoot down that idea, he kicked it a few times to make sure it was really dead.
Without exploring the possibilities, without any discussion whatsoever, he immediately replied (among other things), “You’re much more rah-rah than I am, but I don’t see anyone publicly speaking about their wins. I just don’t see it happening. […] I think you are more into public accolades than I am.”
I keep thinking about this conversation. Although I’m disappointed at having my idea killed so swiftly, I can accept my boss not accepting it; that happens. Aside from not feeling heard, though, I feel hurt. “You are into public accolades” sounds like an accusation or some kind of personal failing. To me it sounds like “You need other people to constantly validate your work.”
After pondering for a while, I realized that this bothers me because it implies that I only do my work for others, or to get attention from other people, and that if nobody looks at my work I won’t do my best. Yes, I willingly share work I’m proud of. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking pride in my accomplishments and being willing to tell people about it as appropriate. But fundamentally I believe in doing my best work no matter who sees it, whether it’s nobody or the whole world (as this blog attests! I’ve been writing it for nearly 20 years with minimal readership). It bothers me deeply to have my boss imply, and seemingly believe, that’s not the case.
I’ll keep doing my best work, regardless. But now I feel reticent about sharing or even talking about my projects. I don’t feel so proud of the pages I’ve written recently, and I certainly won’t mention them to anyone; if anything, I feel ashamed for wanting to share. When my coworker asked if I had anything going in the release I wanted to highlight in the company-wide email she sends out each release, I said, “No.”
We published the pages I was previously excited among the dozens of pages that went live with the release tonight, just another couple grains of sand. Now I’ll move on to the next thing. Nothing to see here.